Marriage and Fertility Patterns among Jordanians and Syrian Refugees in Jordan

Maia Sieverding, Nasma Berri and Sawsan Abdulrahim

Economic Research Forum, Working Paper Series, Working Paper 1187, May 2018


This paper examines changes in marriage and fertility outcomes among Jordanians and Syrian refugees in Jordan. The analysis is based on the Jordan Labor Market Panel Surveys (JLMPS) of 2010 and 2016. Where possible, the authors compare outcomes for Syrian refugees in Jordan with their outcomes in Syria pre-conflict (2005-2009), and also refer to the Syrian Family Health Survey of 2009, the most recent nationally representative data available from Syria. Key findings relating to Syrian refugees:

  • Marriage patterns among Syrian refugees are affected both by the age distribution of the refugee population, and the fact that the refugee population is not representative of the population as a whole. The Syrian refugee population in Jordan is very young (nearly half under the age of 15), men in the key marriage ages of 20-34 are underrepresented, and there is a relatively small population above age 40. The refugee population in Jordan largely originates from rural areas in Syria, and from four governorates (Dar’a, Homs, rural and urban Damascus, and Aleppo).
  • Syrian refugees generally experienced an earlier transition to marriage than Jordanians. 18 percent of Syrian refugee girls aged 15-19 were married (compared to 8 percent among Jordanian girls of the same age). As with Jordanians, marriage among 15-19 year old Syrian refugee boys was very low (less than 1 percent), but a higher percentage of Syrian refugee men aged 20-24 were married (30 percent) compared to Jordanian men (8 percent).
  • Rates of early marriage (before age 18) among Syrian refugee women were quite high, but there was no evidence that this represents a change in marriage practices since they have been in Jordan. However, there does appear to be some increase in the rate of marriage before age 20.
  • Syrian refugees have a higher total fertility rate (4.4 births per woman in 2016) than Jordanians. This is lower than the fertility rate of the refugee population prior to the conflict and their arrival in Jordan (4.9 births per woman in 2009).
  • Marriage and fertility patterns among Syrian refugees in Jordan are consistent with this population being a highly selected group from the Syrian population overall—refugees are primarily from parts of Syria where earlier marriage and higher fertility rates were common prior to the conflict.
  • Syrian refugees in Jordan were more disadvantaged in their marriage outcomes, including lower expenditures on marriage and lower rates of nuclear family residence. Women who married before age 18, both Syrian and Jordanian, also experienced poorer outcomes than those who married at older ages, including larger age and education gaps with their spouses, a lower likelihood of having a nuclear living arrangement and a higher likelihood of being related to their spouse, factors that are negatively associated with empowerment.


Jordan | Syria